Sunday, February 13, 2011

Squeezing Public Schools by Expanding Charter School Legislation

Whatever is affecting music education in Indiana Public Schools is affecting visual arts educational learning opportunities. This is a great call to action message from the AIME:

The Alliance for Indiana Music Education representing the following organizations: Indiana Music Educators Association, Indiana State School Music Association, Indiana Bandmasters Association, Indiana High School Color Guard Association, Indiana Choral Director's Association, Indiana Percussion Association, Indiana Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, and the Indiana Orff-Schulwerk Association encourages parents of the more than one million public school students served by these organizations to ask their legislators to vote NO to legislation that will result in school corporations being forced to reduce or eliminate music and arts education programs. The two house bills and the corresponding senate bills currently under consideration of particular concern are:

HB 1002/SB 446 (HB 1002 has already passed the House)

HB 1337/SB 575

While neither of these bills makes direct reference to the arts, they along with other initiatives under consideration by the Indiana legislature, will divert money from traditional K-12 public schools, which are already suffering greatly from cuts in state funding. It is critical that you take action now!

HB 1002/SB 446 is an effort to expand charter schools at the expense of traditional K-12 public schools. This bill would require public school districts to lease currently unused buildings to charter schools for $1 a year for 20 years, while requiring the district to incur the cost of maintaining the building. In addition, all transportation costs for charter schools would be paid by public school funds. Another provision in the bill states that only 50% of the teachers in a charter school must hold a teachers' license. Research has not shown that charter schools are more effective in improving student learning, nor is there data to support the use of non-licensed teachers as a path to improving student learning. However, there is a great deal of research supporting the benefits of quality music and arts education programs, as well as the importance of early childhood education. Diverting funds to support the expansion of charter schools from already depleted school budgets will result in reductions and/or the elimination of school music and arts programs. This "education reform" bill does not provide the opportunity for students to enter school "ready to learn", it does not provide an education that meets the needs of the "whole" child, and it does not guarantee ALL students will be taught by a highly-qualified teacher as required by No Child Left Behind. Indiana Code 20-24-2-1 defined the following explicit purpose of charter schools: "to provide innovative and autonomous programs". The expectation is that, as innovative entities, charter schools will construct a school culture conducive to student academic success. The Alliance for Indiana Music Education believes school reform should provide the opportunity for all schools to be more innovative and autonomous and should support public schools' efforts to provide a school culture conducive to student academic success with adequate funding to expand early childhood education and offer quality music and arts education for all students.

Effects of HB 1002/SB 446 on music education in Indiana:

· Funding for traditional K-12 public schools diverted to an increased number of charter schools

· Time and money for the arts reduced or eliminated in traditional K-12 schools and charter schools

· Indiana students taught by non-licensed teachers

HB 1337/SB 575 not only reduces the contractual rights of every teacher, it creates a statewide teacher and principal evaluation system that allows the state to determine the criteria used to label and reward teachers. Included in the criteria, will be student growth data collected from statewide standardized tests in the subject areas the state determines to be important. Although local school districts may create their own evaluation tools, those tools must be approved by the Indiana Department of Education. No provisions have been made to determine how to evaluate and reward highly effective teachers in non-tested subject areas.

Effects of HB 1337/SB 575 on music education in Indiana:

· Teachers in non-tested areas such as music, will likely either be held accountable for student achievement in tested areas, or will not have the opportunity to be rewarded as highly effective teachers, since no evaluation provisions have been established for them.

The Alliance for Indiana Music Education further encourages all citizens of Indiana to vote no to any proposal that would divert funding from K-12 public schools to provide scholarships for students to leave high school early. The completion of required coursework does not guarantee that students are ready to be successful in college. Socialization skills, discipline, organization, and maturity are all factors in determining success in college and in a career. Research does not support the notion that students are more successful in college and/or life when given the financial incentive to leave high school early. This "experiment" would not only have a negative impact on school funding, but could be devastating to those students who advance to college without the maturity or skills to be successful.

Effects of Scholarships for Early Graduation on music education:

· Students rushing to complete required courses in high school would forfeit the opportunity to take classes in music or other options like AP classes that enrich their preparation for college.

Although these proposals do not directly attack school music programs, the negative impact cannot be denied. As in the case with the bill that passed the General Assembly last year requiring all third-graders to pass a new statewide reading test, a negative impact will be placed on elementary music and arts programs, because no additional funding or time was provided. Therefore, the cost of an extra 90 minutes a day of reading will be funded at the expense of recess, music, or art classes.

Past history has taught us that any time public school funding is reduced music and arts programs are jeopardized. DO YOU WANT THE QUALITY MUSIC PROGRAM IN YOUR SCHOOL REDUCED OR ELIMINATED? Many music programs survived the funding cuts last year only because of additional funds provided by the federal government. Indiana should be extremely proud of the quality school music programs we enjoy and the many benefits music programs have provided to hundreds of thousands of Indiana students. How often do we hear it said, "My high school band, choir, orchestra, etc. changed my life." We are at a very critical place in music and arts education and Indiana public education in general. Governor Daniels has presented an education agenda for this General Assembly that could result in destroying music education in Indiana. WE MUST TAKE ACTION NOW! This is not a battle between the ISTA and Governor Daniels. This is a battle for public education in Indiana. We must contact our state legislators TODAY and ask them to vote NO to HB 1337/SB 575, NO to SB 446 and NO to any similar bills presented during this year's General Assembly. We must also encourage other members of our music booster organizations and supportive parents in our communities to support public school education and the quality of life in Indiana by contacting their legislators TODAY.... before it is too late!

Charles R. Briel, Executive Director
Michael K. Bridgewater, Assistant Executive Director
Rick Granlund, President

Barbara Resch, President

Michelle Oyler, President-Elect
Lissa May, Past President

Brenda Brenner, President

Steve Cotten, President

Bob Medworth, President

Scott Buchanan, President

Josh Torres, President

Josh Southard, President


Indiana General Assembly

Indiana State Republicans

Indiana Senate Democrats

Indiana House Republicans

Indiana House Democrats

Look Up Indiana Code

When contacting your legislators, we suggest the following:

1. Be courteous and appreciative of their desire to provide the best for all students in Indiana schools.

2. Be concise, but express your concerns in your own words.

3. Provide personal contact information.

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